Oskaloosa, Iowa – With a quiet march to the square in Oskaloosa, from St. Paul Congregational United Church, over a dozen people took time to remember those individuals impacted by transgender violence.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual event held on November 20th each year. “The best way to remember lives lost is to educate people about what it is to be trans,” said Robin White, who was leading the vigils at the Oskaloosa Band Stand. “It’s more and more people understanding who we are, what we’re about, and that we have a right to exist on this planet just like everybody else.”
The candlelight vigils to remember those lost to transgender violence started in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, who was a transgender African-American woman who was murdered in Allston, Massachusetts in 1998.
Following Hester’s murder, the idea for a yearly vigil became a reality soon after. The purpose of the vigils was to help spread information about the lives and deaths of transgender individuals.
Robin White once again lead the service in Oskaloosa. Names were read from a list, and a quote about transgender lives was read that each person had submitted.
One of those who submitted a comment was Kiki Collier of Inglewood, Chicago, who stated, “The Trump administration’s various antitransgender moves, most dramatically, the President’s tweets foreshadowing a ban on transgender people serving in the military, have collectively made it more dangerous for our community.”
Chad Farner helps to lead the PLAG group in Oskaloosa and was an organizer of the walk on Monday.
Farner said the event is really about remembering those transgender, mostly women, who have been killed in the last year. “23 so far this year.”
“The hope for an evening like tonight is to shine a light on those tragic deaths,” added Farner, who parroted the comments of White that transgender people need to be treated with respect and not subjected to the violence that they are.
Farner said that individuals in the LGBTQ members that are part of PLAG have very positive things to say about living in Oskaloosa and the way they are treated by the community. “I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and there is a lot we need to learn about. But I think the community treats people with respect.”
PFLAG meets regularly at the Oskaloosa Public Library, a change of venue, on the third Tuesday of every month.